Shelving the dream

Dina Strasser’s daughter wants to start a bakery that serves pie and gumbo. “You can do whatever you want,” she told her. But that’s not true, Strasser writes in Shelving My American Dream.

She works as an English teacher. Her husband is a minister, who has little hope of finding work outside the South or Midwest. Her brother is mentally disabled. Her mother is widowed.

In June of this year, I turned down the most prestigious scholarship for doctoral work that my local, nationally recognized university had to offer. It was as generous as you could hope for: full tuition, opportunities for stipends and grants. The gracious professors there, and others who helped me with my applications, spent hours of their own time walking me through the process, writing recommendations; they said, to wit, you were born to be a Ph.D. And I knew it, because I had figured that out for myself in third grade. It was the only lifelong dream I have ever had.

Strasser would need “exquisite mobility to find the kind of rapidly dwindling tenure-track job required to support my family, most of which were located in places best described as not in the South or Midwest,” she decided. Instead, she will “stay in a related job that pays double the national average with good benefits, in a decent school district, with marriage and family healthy and happy, in a big blue colonial.”

Yet she wonders what to tell her daughter and son about their dreams. “It’s not you can do anything you want. And it’s not you can do everything you want, just not at the same time. It’s not even something will work out.”

She hasn’t figured it out.

Going for a PhD is “risky business,” writes Fredrick deBoer. “I tell people– if you can imagine doing literally anything else, do that instead.” However, “mocking graduate students . . .  features a lot of weirdness about risk, choice, and other people’s lives in late capitalism.”

Denver remediates collegebound grads

Denver Public Schools is providing free remedial math and English classes over the summer for collegebound graduates. One summer student failed the placement test at the University of Colorado-Pueblo, despite earning a 3.1 grade-point average in high school.

After dropping out of high school in ninth grade, Krista LeBrun earned a GED at 17 — and kept going till she got a PhD.

Degrees and professionalism

If Ted Purinton is to be believed, there’s some uncertainty about the future of and role of the Ed.D. degree, primarily due to the fact that whither go the Ivies and other preeminent universities, so follow the other colleges. Once upon a time, the Ed.D. degree had an image problem. But then…

Within the field of education, Ed.D. programs had for a long time been assumed to be inferior to Ph.D. programs, and only marginally useful to the improvement of educational practice, policy, and administration. That is, until Vanderbilt University, the University of Southern California, Harvard University, and a few other institutions revamped their doctor in education, or Ed.D., programs within the past decade (with Harvard creating an Ed.L.D. in educational leadership), emphasizing practice over scholarship and school-based improvement over university-level teaching.

And all was well with the world. Until…

Just recently, however, the Harvard Graduate School of Education, home to one of the most influential Doctor of Education programs in the nation, was granted permission by the university to offer its first Ph.D.; further, its Ed.D. will eventually be eliminated. For many decades, the university did not see the field of education as worthy of the Doctor of Philosophy degree. Times have changed, of course; the Ph.D. appears to look better to Harvard applicants, and the university has recognized the need for and the interdisciplinary nature of educational research.

 

The question to be asked, then, is supposedly this:

What impact does the elimination of a practice-related doctoral degree have on the prospects of educational professionalism?

Purinton seems worried that education’s professionalism will suffer as its primary doctoral-level degree becomes more removed from applied practice, that the more practical sorts of degrees (such as the Ed.D.) are part of a structure that generates a sort of working professional knowledge. I suspect that this worry might be misplaced, in part because of the structure of education in this country, and in part because of more philosophic considerations.
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Dance Your PhD: Titanium to pigeons

This year’s Dance Your PhD contest winners make science look sexy, writes Alan Boyle on Cosmic Log.

“Microstructure-Property Relationships in Ti2448 Components Produced by Selective Laser Melting”, by Joel Miller, a biomedical engineer at the University of Western Australia in Perth, won the physics category, the grand prize of $1,000 and a freed trip to TEDx Brussels.  The “love story” tells how stiff Titanium Man (played by Miller) and porous Bone Woman (Sara Fontaine) got together to create better, longer-lasting hip and knee replacements.

Science’s Joel Bohannon created the contest in 2008.

Three other videos won $500 prizes:

Cedric Kai Wei Tan,a biologist at the University of Oxford, won the biology category with his depiction of the fruit fly’s mating dance.

FoSheng Hsu,a structural biologist at Cornell University, took chemistry with “his solo interpretation of the time-consuming process for extracting proteins from E. coli bacteria and determining their structure through X-ray crystallography.”

Emma Ware, a behavioral biologist at Queen’s University in Canada, won the social science prize for a dance mimicking pigeons’ courtship dynamics.

A PhD in murder

While pursuing a PhD in “homicide studies” at the British taxpayers’ expense, a man with a long history of criminal violence became a serial killer, writes Theodore Dalrymple in City Journal.  After Stephen Griffiths’ release from prison — and a mental hospital, in which he was diagnosed as an incurable psychopath — he was accepted by the University of Bradford; the government paid his fees and living expenses. Griffiths “killed and ate three women, two cooked and one raw, according to his own account.” He’s now serving a life sentence, giving him time to complete his doctorate on 19th-century murder practices.

On the British series Wire in the Blood, a paroled killer enrolls in a PhD program while committing new murders. It was written in 2005, before Griffiths’ murder spree.

Guess who’s coming to dinner, writes Erin O’Connor.